Mahalle Topography

Among these ontological markers of Kasap ƒlyas, the Davud Paœa wharf is of special importance. This wharf, which probably preexisted the mahalle, was far from being essential to the general port activities of a large city like Istanbul. The most important wharfs were always, in Byzantine as in Ottoman times, located along the coast of the Golden Horn, which was a magnificent natural harbor. To these were brought most of the goods imported to the city and the main wharfs used for passenger transportation were also situated along the coast of this harbor. The Davudpaœa wharf was nev-
ertheless one of the very few jetties situated on the Marmara Sea coast of the walled city. Along a one-mile stretch of coastline from Langa to Samatya, among the vegetable gardens and the fishermen’s huts, there were but two small jetties: that of Yenikapı, mostly used for bringing fruits and vegetables from the Asian coast in the nineteenth century, and our Davudpaœa wharf.16
The Davudpaœa wharf served as a basic point of reference for a much wider area than our neighborhood.
This wharf epitomizes the functional articulation of Kasap ƒlyas to the rest of the city. To this small wooden wharf, barges brought such construction materials as wood for burning, timber, coal, straw, sand, and gravel. These were then stored in a number of nearby warehouses within the Kasap ƒlyas mahalle, all situated between the Davudpaœa wharf and the main thoroughfare of Kasap ƒlyas that passed between the mosque and the hamam. Records suggest that the presence of warehouses in the area was as ancient as the wharf, or as the neighborhood itself. As early as 1511 a deed of trust mentions the existence of a “seller of wood/timber near the Davudpaœa wharf.”17 Traces of these shops and warehouses are to be found throughout the centuries.
These warehouses obviously did not address themselves to the sole inhabitants of Kasap ƒlyas, or even to the larger Davudpaœa area of which Kasap ƒlyas was a part. Most of these goods were commodities of first necessity, whether for fuel (wood and coal), for transportation (straw), or for construction and repair work (sand and gravel). As a matter-of-fact, the general layout of the city of Istanbul commanded that an important part of the import, transportation, and domestic distribution of these bulk goods be done by sea, to avoid the hilly and dense maze of narrow streets in the city center. They had to be stored in warehouses situated not too far away from their port of disembarkment. From there, retail trade and distribution could proceed. The Davudpaœa wharf and the warehouses in our mahalle serviced a large portion of the city, in fact almost the whole of the Marmara seacoast west of Langa.
Our neighborhood therefore had an urban commercial function whose importance exceeded the narrow limits of a small and residential mahalle. Wood and timber was brought to the capital-city of the Ottoman Empire from various Black Sea ports and their first points of entry were situated along the southern shore of the Golden Horn (in Cibali and Odun iskelesi, to be more precise).18
The Davudpaœa wharf and the warehouses in the Kasap ƒlyas mahalle served as one of the main transiting points for urban retailing and distribution.
The centuries-long presence of the wharf and of the attached warehouses did put a durable imprint on Kasap ƒlyas. The owners of the warehouses used local labor and facilities, and many of the street-porters living within the mahalle were partly or fully employed in the transportation and distribution of timber, sand, and so forth. The whole area acquired, as we shall see, a certain disrepute due to the presence of the porters and of various warehouse workers, a largely “nonfamilial” and mostly migrant group within an otherwise almost completely residential area. The small wooden Davudpaœa wharf
was also sometimes also used for public transportation. Seventeenth- and eighteenth-century listings of boats and barges operating in Istanbul show that a few, though not many, of them were permanently attached to the Davudpaœa wharf. These boats and barges must have carried passengers to and from the city center, that is, to and from other wharfs situated on the Golden Horn. This public transportation activity probably continued until the 1860s, when the mahalle was connected to central Istanbul by a tramway line. Although Istanbul is a typical port-city surrounded by water on three sides and where various types of boats were, for centuries, the most important means of public transportation, there are few serious studies on the history of marine transportation within the city.19
The Davudpaœa wharf also had its political heyday in the early sixteenth century, for it was, in a way, involved in the political fight between Selim and Korkut, both sons of Sultan Bayezid the Second (reigned between 1481 and 1512) and potential heirs to the Ottoman throne. When the throne seemed
to be up for grabs Korkut, who was then governor of Manisa, secretly moved to Bandyrma, took a boat that crossed the Sea of Marmara, and landed in Istanbul on April 9, 1512. His intention was to rally the various Janissary corps stationed in Istanbul and to convince them to join him in order to
overtrow his father. The attempt was not crowned with success and it was Selim, later nicknamed “The Grim,” who finally mounted the Ottoman throne.
What pertains to the Kasap ƒlyas mahalle in this adventure is that, to mount his political coup, Prince Korkut had chosen the Davudpaœa wharf when he disembarked upon his arrival at Istanbul.20 That is hardly surprising for, in all military and political logic, he needed a wharf that was both well-known to navigators and was not too centrally situated. It can be surmised that, had Prince Korkut’s political gamble succeeded, the fortunes of the small and secondary Davudpaœa wharf and of the mahalles in its environs might well have received an economic and political boost.
Even in the early sixteenth century, however, the significance of this minor wharf was not limited to the sole Kasap ƒlyas mahalle, within the bounds of which it happened to operate. The Davudpaœa wharf, minor though it was, was used as a basic topographical landmark for a much wider area. In
fact, the whole of the Marmara coast all the way from the Langa vegetable gardens to the Greek and Armenian quarters of Samatya were using this wharf as a topographical marker. For instance, in two deeds of trust dated April 1530 and October 1542,21 the small mosque of Bayezid-i Cedid, situated about half a mile to the west of the Kasap ƒlyas mosque, and nearer in fact to the district of Samatya than to Davudpaœa, is described as “the mosque of Sultan Bayezid near the Davudpaœa wharf.” Moreover, in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, not only this or that particular building or plot of land, but whole mahalles were described with reference to the Davudpaœa wharf. In many of the local deeds of trust drawn in the late seventeenth century, the neighborhood where the donated property is situated is described as “…the Kasap ƒlyas mahalle near the Davudpaœa wharf.”22 So is the neighboring mahalle always referred to as “…the Bayezid-i cedid mahalle near the Davudpaœa wharf.”
Later, the inhabitants of Kasap ƒlyas even came to be designated, in some nineteenth-century sources, as those from the Davudpaœa wharf (Davudpaœa Iskeleli). This designation was meant to differentiate those who lived in the parts of the Davudpaœa District nearer to the seaside and to the wharf—that is, in the Kasap ƒlyas mahalle—from those who resided up the hill, near the grand vizier’s mosque and the religious court contiguous to it. These people were therefore called those from the Davudpaœa Court (Davudpaœa Mahkemeli).23 When local fire brigades were constituted within Istanbul in the middle of the nineteenth century, the volunteers from the Kasap ƒlyas mahalle were, almost naturally, incorporated into the Davudpaœa Wharf fire brigade, and those from the upper parts of the district into the Davudpaœa Court brigade.

To determine the precise boundaries of the sixteenth-century Kasap ƒlyas mahalle is an attempt both vain and impossible. The mahalles—or, rather, those that survived until the twentieth century—were officially assigned precise and artificial boundaries only in 1927.14 For centuries the Kasap ƒlyas mosque, the Davudpaœa complex, the hamam, the wharf, and the city ramparts bordering on the sea of Marmara were sufficient definitional landmarks.
There is nevertheless reason to suppose that the area and borders of the Kasap ƒlyas mahalle did not change to a very considerable extent during the last few centuries. To the west and to the east of it, the two neighboring mahalles (Sancaktar Hayrettin alias Bayezid-i Cedid, and Kürkçübaœı) have
always been the same. The southernly limits of Kasap ƒlyas were, then as now, naturally set by the city walls and by the sea of Marmara. To the north, there were two neighboring mahalles (Hubyar and Abacızade) in the sixteenth century but these had later disappeared and had been absorbed into
other northernly neighborhoods.
To sum up, Kasap ƒlyas extended, then as now, over a rectangular area, with the long sides of the rectangle being oriented approximately in the eastwest direction. Compared with the other intramural Istanbul mahalles, Kasap ƒlyas has never been a small neighborhood. In the nineteenth century, Istanbul neighborhoods usually covered an area ranging from one to five hectares.15
Kasap ƒlyas, toward the end of the nineteenth century, had a total area of no less than six hectares. Only a little more than half that area was effectively inhabited, though, and the Davud Paœa vegetable gardens took up the rest.
The streets of Istanbul received official names only in the 1860s. The people of Istanbul gave names to the more important streets before the nineteenth century, but nothing points to the existence of street names as early as the sixteenth century. There were no house or gate numbers either and the
modern construct of an “address” could not apply.
The truth is that none of the real estate property in Kasap ƒlyas set up as a pious foundation in the sixteenth century can now be located with any degree of precision within the mahalle. For in the deeds of trust, these properties were always described with reference to the nearest well-known land-
mark and to the names of the owners of the neighboring houses or property.
The landmarks most often used in the sixteenth-century Kasap ƒlyas mahalle were, besides its namesake mosque and the hamam, the city ramparts, the Davud Paœa gate on the same ramparts, and the wharf.


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